LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 9/11: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Styles vs. Hardy, Bayley’s explanation, new Firefly Funhouse, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
SEPTEMBER 11, 2020
ORLANDO, FL AT WWE THUNDERDOME IN AMWAY CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-Following a still graphic commemorating the anniversary of 9/11, the show opened with a video recapping Roman Reigns’ promo with Paul Heyman and the number one contender’s match from last week’s show.

-The package gave way to a high wide shot of the WWE Thunderdome. Michael Cole talked up the set up as “state of the art” and welcomed the audience to the show.

-Roman Reigns’ music played and he walked onto the stage with the Universal title over his shoulder, flanked by Paul Heyman. Reigns held up the title to a chorus of pyro. Michael Cole and Corey Graves talked up Jey Uso earning a title shot against Roman at Clash of Champions.

-Paul Heyman said the “tribal chief” has authorized him to enlighten fans on some recent history. Heyman said Reigns wrecked everyone and left Payback as the new Universal Champion. Paul claimed that Roman told him to “lay it all out on the table” for everyone, and he did just that.

Heyman said Jey Uso stepped up last week and emerged as the number one contender to the Universal title. He claimed Roman bestowed upon him the honor of introducing Jey and bringing him to the ring. The Uso’s music played and Jey walked to the ring as Cole talked over childhood photos of Roman and Jey together as children.

Jey said Paul goes way back with his family and he’s got love for him. He thanked him for the opportunity to compete against Roman. Paul accepted no credit, saying he was merely executing a command from his boss. Roman took the mic. “You don’t have to thank me,” Roman said, “we’re blood.” Reigns told Jey he earned this shot, and it’s his moment to take a huge payday home to his family.

Roman said it won’t be his moment at Clash of Champions. “Like when we were kids, I’m gonna whoop your ass,” Reigns claimed. He said after that, it’s all love. Reigns claimed the title has to stay on his shoulder for “their family to stay where it is.” Jey smiled, “it’s all good, but we’re not kids anymore.”

King Corbin’s music hit and he walked out, claiming Reigns pulled strings to get a “hand picked opponent” for his first title defense. He said it’s a classic case of nepotism and it makes him sick. Corbin said there’s nothing he despises more than watching someone walk around and abuse their power. Sheamus’ music cut Corbin off.

Sheamus said he agrees with Corbin. “The whole situation stinks,” Sheamus claimed. He said Big E took an unfortunate spill last week, and the match should’ve turned into a triple threat. “Strings were pulled, and suddenly Jey Uso is in the match,” Sheamus said. Sheamus claimed there was no time to prepare.

“You want time to prepare?” Jey retorted, “how about you prepare to take a tag match with the two of us?” Sheamus tried to attack Jey, but Uso tossed him over the top rope. Corbin tried to attack, but Jey tossed him into the turnbuckle. Reigns looked on, smirking, but said nothing. Reigns’ music played and he left the ring, leaving Jey hanging.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good segment. Paul Heyman was effective, and, as usual, succeeded in putting over his guy’s opponent. Jey Uso was fired up, owning the moment and realizing this is the biggest moment of his career. Most importantly, Reigns came off as sufficiently smug while still airing on the side of caution in going all-out heel against his cousin. I particularly liked the way Reigns let Jey handle Sheamus and Corbin on his own, standing aside with an air of being just above it all. Roman’s body language seemed to say, “why would I fight your battle for you?” Well done.)

-Michael Cole and Corey Graves teased the Intercontinental title match between Jeff Hardy and A.J. Styles, coming up next.

-Sami Zayn was shown arguing with someone in the production truck. Zayn argued that a match between Styles and Hardy couldn’t be for the Intercontinental title because he’s the Intercontinental champion. Sami hit a button, cutting the show to commercial.

-Jeff Hardy headed to the ring, followed by A.J. Styles. Cole and Graves discussed the brewing rivalry between the two.

As Greg Hamilton began the formal ring introductions, Sami Zayn walked out to cut him off. He declared that the match is not for the Intercontinental title, because he’s the champion. He said he won the title on March 8th, and defended the title successfully against Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania. Sami said he took a couple of months off and WWE decided to determine a new “sham” champion.

Adam Pearce walked out onto the stage. Sami asked him to be the voice of reason. Pearce instead asked security to remove Sami Zayn from ringside. Sami walked to the back, yelling.

Meanwhile, in the ring, A.J. Styles attacked Jeff Hardy from behind. He stomped at the leg for a moment before the referee pulled him away. Styles went to his own corner and the referee checked on Hardy to ensure he was okay to compete.

(1) JEFF HARDY (c) vs. A.J. STYLES – WWE Intercontinental title match

The referee called for the bell and A.J. Styles pounced on Jeff Hardy. Hardy dodged the attack and hit Styles with a quick Twist of Fate. Hardy climbed to the top rope and went for the Swanton Bomb, but Styles rolled out of the way. Cole sent the show to commercial just seconds after it officially began.

Styles tossed Hardy to the outside of the ring as the show returned from commercial. He rolled outside to meet him, stomping away at Hardy, then rolling into the ring briefly to break the count. Styles tried to drag Hardy onto the steel steps, but Jeff pushed him away, then used them to leap onto Styles haphazardly. Hardy’s back hit hard on the barrier.

Both men returned to the ring. Hardy hit a quick inverted atomic drop and went for the sit out leg drop, but Styles blocked him. Styles charged at Hardy, but Hardy caught him with an elbow, leapt to the top rope and caught Styles with Whisper in the Wind. Hardy covered for a quick two count.

Hardy went for another Twist of Fate, but Styles spun out of it and connected with a Ushigoroshi. Styles set up for the Styles Clash, but Jeff broke free, dropped Styles and hit the patented leg drop, covering for another two count. Hardy dragged Styles to his feet, but Styles ripped at Hardy’s leg and drove his elbow into the knee repeatedly. Jeff managed to shove Styles away, but A.J. kicked Jeff then set up for the Phenomenal Forearm. Sami Zayn appeared at ringside and ripped Styles from the apron, causing a disqualification.

WINNER: No Contest in 8:00

Zayn entered the ring and hit Hardy with a Heluva Kick. He left the ring and held up his Intercontinental title. “There’s only one!” Zayn yelled. He called Hardy a fraud.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I understand they’re trying to further a story with Sami Zayn here, but I dislike non-finishes in matches that are this heavily advertised. It’s fine to do it on TV, but WWE relies on this crutch far too often, especially lately. The match, or what we saw of it, was fine.)

-Cole teased the Firefly Funhouse for later in the night, where Bray Wyatt would introduce a “new friend.”

-Jey Uso was shown sitting with Roman Reigns on a couch in his locker room. Corey Graves said the tag match has been made official.

-Back at ringside, Jeff Hardy returned to his feet and began walking up the ramp to his music. Hardy collapsed in pain. Cole said they need help as the show went to commercial.

-Alyse Ashton updated the audience on Jeff Hardy’s condition from outside the trainer’s room. She said it appears to have been dehydration. A.J. Styles walked around the corner and said Sami Zayn’s antics have to stop, and Jeff Hardy cheated. Styles said this sounds like frustration, but it’s determination. “I can beat Sami Zayn, I can beat Jeff Hardy, I don’t care what match it’s in.” Styles said he’d prove that he’s the only Intercontinental champion.

-Back at the announcers desk, Michael Cole explained the brand-to-brand invitational and threw to a clip from Raw showing Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura challenging the Street Profits.

-In the “champion’s lounge” backstage, Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura came face to face with the Street Profits. They said they wanted to check the place out. Cesaro said they have a match next. Angelo Dawkins promised to keep the place clean for them while they work. “Don’t break anything,” Cesaro warned. Nakamura told them not to touch anything. Street Profits ate some popcorn anyway.

-Lucha House Party headed to the ring. On an inset promo, Kalisto claimed to be the leader of Lucha House Party and said the Smackdown tag titles would soon be their’s.

-In the trainer’s room, Jeff Hardy sat with the doctor discussing his situation. He told Jeff to take in fluids. Sami Zayn came in to instigate. Hardy attacked him. The show went to commercial abruptly.

-After the break, Lucha House Party continued to wait in the ring with their music playing. Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura headed to the ring. Cole continued to talk about the champions vs. champions tag match on next week’s Raw.

(2) LUCHA HOUSE PARTY (Kalisto & Gran Metalik w/ Lince Dorado) vs. CESARO & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA

Cesaro and Gran Metalik began the match with a lock up. Cesaro whipped Metalik into the corner, but Metalik quickly bounced out and took Cesaro down with a head scissor takeover. Metalik tagged in Kalisto and launched him off his shoulders onto Cesaro. Kalisto covered for a two count.

Shinsuke Nakamura distracted Kalisto, allowing Cesaro to cut him down with a big clothesline from behind. Cesaro tagged in Nakamura, who drove his knee into Kalisto’s neck, then sent him to the corner. Nakamura drove his boot into Kalisto’s face, then tagged Cesaro back in.

Cesaro dropped Kalisto and covered him for a two count. He hooked Kalisto’s arm and cranked his neck before giving him a big body slam and a leg drop. Cesaro covered for another two count. Cesaro tagged in Nakamura, who hit a running knee in the corner before tagging out again. Nakamura gave Kalisto a knee to the back and Cesaro caught him with a gut wrench for another two count.

Suddenly, the Street Profits appeared on the tron from the champion’s lounge. It was now filled with a few random men and women, as well as Matt Riddle. Kalisto rolled up Cesaro for a surprise three count off the distraction.

WINNERS: Lucha House Party in 3:00

Cesaro and Nakamura were enraged. Lucha House Party escaped up the ramp celebrating. The Street Profits laughed and danced on the tron.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This is one of many reasons that WWE’s tag division, especially on Smackdown, means nothing, and the titles carry no value. The champions lose almost every match they’re in, especially surprise roll ups against lesser opponents. It’s not smart, it doesn’t help anyone, and it doesn’t add fuel to any feud. It’s just tired, lazy, ridiculous booking.)

-Bayley was shown walking down a hallway, carrying a steel chair. Michael Cole said the question from everyone has been “why, Bayley, why?” He said we may find out after the break.

-The Street Profits continued to celebrate in the lounge backstage when the show returned from break. Lucha House Party showed up to cheer with them.

-Bayley headed to the ring as Michael Cole talked up her accomplishments as champion. He said there’s something much different about her now, especially tonight. Bayley held up the chair she used on Sasha Banks. She grabbed a microphone and sat down in the dented chair. A video package recapped the last couple weeks of Bayley and Sasha’s story.

The Thunderdome roared with boos after the video package. Bayley said she loved every single second of destroying her “best friend” with a steel chair. “Everyone wants answers about why I did what I did, but I’m full of questions.” She asked Sasha if she thinks she’s some kind of idiot. Bayley said she knew what Sasha was thinking all along. “Who knows you better than me? Bayley asked. “Nobody.”

Bayley said Sasha was her friend just to keep her close. Bayley claimed Sasha followed her to Smackdown and needed to become “2 Belts Banks” to best her. Bayley said Sasha used her all along, but she used Sasha too. “I never cared about you,” Bayley declared. “Thanks to you, I am the longest reigning Smackdown women’s champion.” Bayley claimed that Sasha is completely useless to her after last week. She tossed the microphone and left the ring, taking the dented chair with her.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Bayley’s explanation still left a lot to be desired, but I’m okay with that. This story is going to have multiple layers, especially when Sasha is brought back into the fold. Bayley said what she needed to say to further the angle along.)

-Cole and Graves said they still don’t understand Bayley’s motives. They talked up the tag team main event, and a four way match to determine Bayley’s next challenger, happening next.

Nikki Cross headed to the ring for the aforementioned match and crossed paths with Bayley on her way to the ring. As Cross walked past her, Bayley smashed her in the back with the steel chair. The show went to commercial.

-Alexa Bliss checked on Nikki Cross at ringside when the show returned from break. Trainers checked on her and said she’d be okay to compete. Lacey Evans headed to the ring and threw her entrance skirt at Cross. Alexa Bliss tried to step in, but the referee held her back. Tamina was shown in the ring, waiting for the other participants.

(3) NIKKI CROSS vs. ALEXA BLISS vs. LACEY EVANS vs. TAMINA – #1 Contender’s match for the Smackdown Women’s title

Alexa Bliss attacked Lacey Evans and Nikki Cross went after Tamina as soon as the match began. Tamina tossed Cross to the outside, then turned her attention to Bliss, catching her with a big boot. Lacey Evans and Tamina locked up and Tamina dropped her with a quick head butt.

Bliss returned to the ring and dropkicked both Tamina and Evans. She circled the ring, then planed her knees into the stomach of Evans before getting taken out with a big clothesline from Tamina. Tamina gave Lacey Evans a suplex and covered her, but Bliss broke it up at two.

Tamina scooped up Alexa Bliss. Alexa squirmed out, but Tamina caught her with a sloppy big boot. She tossed Bliss to the corner and splashed her. Lacey Evans raked Tamina’s eyes across the top rope, then tried to give Bliss a dropkick, but Tamina kicked her and tossed her from the ring.

Nikki Cross returned and attacked Tamina. They traded blows. Cross caught her with a basement dropkick, then a running clothesline, covering Tamina for a two count. Alexa Bliss returned as Nikki shoved Tamina to the outside. Nikki Cross whipped Bliss into both Evans and Tamina on the outside.

Cross dove onto Evans and Tamina while Alexa Bliss wandered aimlessly at ringside. She looked up at the rafters, then grabbed Nikki, kissed her forehead and gave her Sister Abigail. Bliss looked off into space and the show went to commercial.

When the show returned from break, Tamina had Lacey Evans down in the corner. Cole and Graves tossed to a clip from during the commercial, showing Alexa Bliss wandering straight out of the ringside area and to the back, completely dazed. In the ring, Evans leapt over the ropes from the apron and hit Tamina with an elbow. She covered her for a two count.

Evans climbed to the top rope, but Tamina ripped her off, bouncing her head off the turnbuckle on the way down. Tamina charged at Evans, but Evans tripped her up into the turnbuckle. Evans climbed to the top rope and hit the top rope moonsault. She covered Tamina, but Nikki Cross broke it up at two.

Tamina and Evans stood in opposing corners. Nikki Cross charged and hit them both repeatedly, then caught Tamina with a running bulldog, drop kicking Evans on her way through. She covered Tamina for a two count. Cross climbed to the top, kicked Tamina in the face and caught her with a tornado DDT. She bounced to her feet and hit Lacey Evans with a neckbreaker. Tamina broke up a pin attempt.

Lacey Evans and Tamina fought briefly, then Evans caught her with the Women’s Right. Evans turned around and got caught with the neckbreaker. Evans rolled to the outside. Tamina attacked Nikki Cross, but Cross managed to roll her up for a three count.

WINNER: Nikki Cross in 12:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: The lack of depth in the women’s division was on full display here. None of these women are currently in a position to viably challenge Bayley for the women’s title. All four of these women have faced Bayley on one or more occasions with underwhelming to middling results. Without Banks in the picture, and with Charlotte and Becky Lynch on the shelf, Bayley and Asuka are the lone wolves on their respective brands, fielding challengers that don’t live up to the main event billing women’s feuds have been given in the past. While the angle with Bliss is intriguing, I don’t think it’d be wise to split she and Nikki. Furthermore, Cross challenged Bayley for the title as recently as July. This feud is old and tired. There’s nothing to see here.)

-Backstage, King Corbin and Sheamus discussed strategy as Cole and Graves talked up the main event tag team match.

-Another vignette for a well-dressed blonde woman, shown entirely from the back, aired.

-Otis stood in the ring with Tucker, awaiting his opponent. John Morrison headed to the ring with The Miz. Cole tossed to footage of Morrison stealing Otis’ Money in the Bank contract on last week’s show, later finding that it was just his lunch box.

(4) OTIS (w/ Tucker) vs. JOHN MORRISON (w/ The Miz)

The Miz joined Cole and Graves on commentary as the match began. Otis quickly tossed Morrison across the ring. Morrison flipped through a clothesline attempt, but got flattened by Otis anyway. Morrison struggled to his feet and began kicking at Otis’ legs. Otis stumbled, but wound up dancing it off.

Otis grabbed Morrison and hit him with an overhead capture suplex. He followed it up with a tossing body slam. Miz left the commentary table to jump on the apron and distract Otis. Tucker scared Miz off. Meanwhile, Morrison grabbed Otis’ lunchbox containing the Money in the Bank contract. He tossed it to Miz, who ran away with it.

Otis hit Morrison with the Caterpillar and subsequent elbow, then followed up with a splash from the second rope for a quick three count.

WINNER: Otis in 3;00

(LeClair’s Analysis: The further removed from Money in the Bank we are, the more it feels like to a mistake to have put the contract on Otis. He disappeared from TV for a while, lost a ton of momentum, and has now been floating in this seemingly meaningless feud with Miz and Morrison. He and Tucker don’t seem interested in challenging for the tag titles, Otis doesn’t seem interested in being a singles wrestler preparing to cash in, and WWE doesn’t seem particularly keen on having him near the title picture. It seems like this contract stealing is meant to keep the gimmick relevant, but it really just feels low brow and beneath everyone involved.)

-The Progressive Match Flo recapped Sheamus’ attack on Big E during last week’s Smackdown.

-Backstage, Otis revealed to Tucker that he kept his lunchbox with the contract inside the Money in the Bank briefcase. The camera cut to Miz and Morrison. They opened the lunchbox, finding nothing but an apple core. Miz said he’s going to call in a favor.

-The Firefly Funhouse title card appeared. Bray Wyatt said good evening to all his fireflies. “Thanks to Roman Reigns, something very special is missing from the Funhouse,” Bray said. Bray claimed it’s okay, because everyone experiences lost, and it shapes the person you become. He gave a dramatic thumbs up to the camera.

Bray turned his attention to a box containing the newest friend of the Funhouse. He said this person has overcome so much in his life to make it to this point. He welcomed “Pasqually the Persevering Parrot” and removed the lid. Nothing happened. Bray peered inside. “I probably should’ve cut some holes in this box. Oh well.” He threw the box to the side.

The Vince McMahon puppet opened the door and asked what’s going on. He said Bray’s lost the Universal championship, killed the Persevering Parrot, and clearly can’t handle the Funhouse alone. He introduced the new “special advisor” to the Funhouse – Wobbly Walrus, a puppet made to resemble Paul Heyman. “This is such good shit,” the McMahon puppet said. “Oh no,” Wyatt declared. The segment faded out.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was garbage. The Funhouse has gone from being of the most intriguing things on the show to the most senseless, co-opted, meta drivel WWE can produce. Given what Wyatt has been able to do at the inception of his characters, it’s disappointing he’s never been allowed to really see any of his ideas through. It feels like it’s high time to retire this gimmick.)

-King Corbin was carried to the ring on his sedan for the main event. Sheamus followed. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Jey Uso headed to the ring after the commercial break. Sheamus and King Corbin ambushed him on the stage and tossed him into the steel steps before sliding him into the ring.

(5) KING CORBIN & SHEAMUS vs. JEY USO & ROMAN REIGNS

The referee rang the ball as soon as Jey Uso was thrown into the ring, despite Roman Reigns not having entered. King Corbin tossed Jey Uso into the corner, but Uso bounced away from his clothesline attempted. Uso quickly rolled Corbin up for a two count, then caught him with a stiff kick to the midsection.

Corbin recovered quickly and caught Jey with Deep Six, covering for a near fall. Corbin tagged in Sheamus. Cole and Graves wondered why Roman Reigns hadn’t come out yet. Sheamus hit Jey Uso with the Ten Beats of the Bodhran, then hit a spin out side slam before tagging in King Corbin.

Corbin stomped at Jey Uso in the corner, then draped his neck over the top rope. Jey fought free and delivered a pair of kicks. Uso super kicked Sheamus off the apron, then caught Corbin with a Samoan Drop. Corbin retreated to the corner and tagged in Sheamus. Sheamus caught Jey with White Noise and covered him for a near fall.

Sheamus called for the Brogue Kick, but Roman Reigns’ music played, distracting him. Sheamus went for the kick, but Jey caught him with an enziguri. He dove through the ropes onto Corbin on the outside. Jey leapt onto the top rope and went for a cross body, but Sheamus caught him. Sheamus went for a fallaway slam, but Jey rolled through it and caught Sheamus with a super kick.

Jey Uso climbed to the top rope just as Roman Reigns reached the apron. Reigns tagged himself in. Jey hit the frog splash on Sheamus and went for the cover, not realizing Reigns had tagged in. Reigns set up in the corner, waiting for Sheamus. He hit the spear, then covered Sheamus for a three count.

WINNERS: Jey Uso & Roman Reigns in 4:00

Roman helped Jey Uso to his feet, gave him a pat on the shoulder, and left, leaving Jey looking on in bewilderment. Atop the ramp, Paul Heyman handed Roman the Universal title. Jey met him at the top of the stage and raised his hand. Roman looked at him with contempt. They stared each other down as the show faded out.

(LeClair’s Analysis: While I would’ve preferred Corbin ate the pin over Sheamus, this match was simply to help Jey Uso build some momentum and further the development of this new, stand-offish Roman Reigns’ character. I thought this served both purposes quite well. Reigns’ showing up to bat clean up and then give Jey a death stare for daring to celebrate with him is exactly the kind of thing I always envisioned an edgier Roman Reigns doing. These past two weeks have sort of been the confirmation that those of us pounding the table for this Roman Reigns all along were, in fact, correct in our clamoring.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: I don’t want to sell the positives on this show short. The story of Roman Reigns continues to evolve and improve week to week. I’m all in on Jey Uso being the first challenger. I think there’s so many intriguing detours and little stories to tell here en route to Clash of Champions, and I think they’ve done an excellent job thus far. Bayley’s vague details regarding her turn on Sasha were vague, but that’s hardly an indictment. There’s plenty of time to tell this chapter of the story and tonight was a perfectly acceptable follow up to last week’s brutal attack. The Intercontinental title scenario has intrigue. There are, however, some glaring negatives. The Smackdown women’s division is alarmingly thin and dangerously close to irrelevancy beyond the champion. This problem has been brewing for a while, and now it’s coming to a head. The tag division, as I’ve stressed weekly, is a mess. Bray Wyatt and the Firefly Funhouse has fallen into ill-advised parody. Tonight’s show, in general, felt a little less disciplined than the last, despite its positives. Like I said before, Smackdown is a show on the upswing following the reintroduction of Roman Reigns, but it’s still far for a complete show.

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